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PFA CITES 'INTOLERABLE DEER DAMAGE AND INSUFFICIENT ACTION' BY THE GAME COMMISSION, SEEKING HELP FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 PFA CITES 'INTOLERABLE DEER DAMAGE AND INSUFFICIENT ACTION'
 BY THE GAME COMMISSION, SEEKING HELP FROM THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
 CAMP HILL, Pa., May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing intolerable deer damage and insufficient action by the Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Farmers' Association (PFA) is seeking help from the General Assembly.
 In testimony today before the House Republican Policy Committee Task Force on Deer Damage, PFA spokesman Leonard Crooke called for legislation to let farmers bring in hunters during the growing season to help eliminate deer causing crop damage. Crooke, a Bucks County dairyman and a member of PFA's Wildlife Damage Control Committee, spoke at a field hearing of the task force in Stockertown, Northampton County.
 PFA supports a "deer damage permit plan" that would allow farmers with crop damage to bring in one hunter for every 25 acres of farmland to harvest deer causing damage from Aug. 1 until deer season begins.
 While there are no recent studies of deer damage to farm crops, Crooke said, "the most recent statistical information dates back to 1981 when a Pennsylvania State University study indicated the annual economic impact due to deer damage in Pennsylvania was somewhere between $16 million and $30 million. Since that time, estimates of damage have been much higher."
 Surveys conducted by PFA in 1988 and 1990, "indicate that 38 percent of Pennsylvania farms have intolerable levels of damage," Crooke said. A separate survey indicated the damage rate on affected farms averaged $4,000 per farm, Crooke added.
 Over the years PFA has asked the Game Commission to take steps to reduce the size of the deer herd and develop new programs to help individual farmers with severe problems.
 "Attempts by the Game Commission to reduce the size of the deer herd have only this year begun to show some sign of success," Crooke testified. "Commission statistics, however, still show that most counties are over the recommended population level. Statewide, the antlerless deer population still remains at more than 100,000 over the recommended level."
 Furthermore, PFA said, Game Commission attempts to implement programs to aid individual farmers have also been unsuccessful. "The general response by the Game Commission has been to indicate that the current law which allows farmers to destroy deer for crop damage is sufficient," Crooke said. "The Pennsylvania Farmers' Association disagrees with this, due to both the amount of time required, and the public pressure which is placed on farmers attempting to comply with the law."
 A farm workload, which can include 18 hours of physical labor, "is especially great during times when deer are doing the most damage," Crooke said. "We cannot take time away from the few hours of sleep we do get to be harvesting and field dressing deer. In addition, many farmers who attempt to do this are physically threatened by those around them who do not understand the impact of the problem."
 In 1990, PFA recommended a permit-hunting program to allow designated hunters to help farmers harvest deer for crop damage. "However, the Game Commission was adamantly opposed to this plan," Crooke said, "and an agreement was reached which led to the hotspot program."
 The hotspot program allows hunters to take antlerless deer on farms which suffered severe crop damage during an extended season following the regular antlered and antlerless season.
 "Our evaluation of the hotspot program concludes it has not met the needs of farmers with crop damage," Crooke said.
 Earlier this year, PFA proposed rescheduling next season's hotspot hunt to coincide with the regular antlered deer season, but the suggestion was rejected by the Game Commission. "We believe that if the hotspot season has any chance to work, the best time to implement it would be when there is maximum hunter activity," Crooke testified.
 "However," he added, "since the Game Commission does not support this recommendation, we believe that legislative action is again necessary."
 Crooke told the task force, "Farmers need legislative relief, and we need it now. We need a program which will allow hunters to help farmers destroy deer for crop damage as the damage is occurring."
 In addition, Crooke said, "We believe it is time to consider crop damage compensation for farm losses." Citing a deer damage fund to compensate farmers in Wisconsin, Crooke said, "I would have to believe that the General Assembly ... would recognize our state's number one industry at least as much as the state of Wisconsin has (theirs)."
 PFA is a voluntary, statewide farm organization representing 23,049 families in 54 local associations.
 /delval/
 -0- 5/14/92
 /CONTACT: Janet B. Carson or Wilson Smeltz of the PFA, 717-761-2740/ CO: Pennsylvania Farmers' Association ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


JS-MK -- PH005 -- 0025 05/14/92 08:25 EDT
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Date:May 14, 1992
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